Pellegrini talks trophy hunt with UAE fans

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Responding to questions from members of the official Sky Blue fan club in the UAE, Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini said it will be a major day for everyone at Manchester City, even those watching the game in Abu Dhabi.

“A cup final is always special and this one is a chance for us to take a very positive step forward this season,” he said. “Do we talk about winning trophies all the time? No, we don’t and that is the correct way to do things. 

“Manchester City is now a major club and only at the end of the season can you look at what you have done. That is the time to celebrate."

“People will keep talking about the Barcelona game, but we are still in that competition. The Capital One Cup gives us a chance to lift everyone and then we go from there and hopefully keep improving.

“And of course the League is a truly important trophy as it shows what you have achieved over the full season. Again, this cup final will help us with that part of the season.”

Pellegrini was speaking to the Sky Blues ahead of a club organised fan zone event at Zayed Sports City Stadium where City supporters will be able to watch the action live on Sunday.

The 2012 Premier League champions have been organising fan events at the stadium for several seasons in the wake of the Abu Dhabi Group's purchase of the club in 2008.

Since then Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan and his charges have invested vast amounts of money to make City one of the biggest teams in the world both on and off the pitch.

Unsurprisingly, the club has benefitted from its royal backing and has grown a large, loyal following in the UAE that has both led and been attributed to such community events in the region as this Sunday's fan zone. 

Pellegrini acknowledged the superb support that City have enjoyed in the UAE, saying: “It was wonderful to see so many City fans on my recent trip to Abu Dhabi and they will once again be really supporting us in this Cup final I am sure.”

To find out more about how to watch the League Cup final at the Zayed Sports City Stadium, follow this link: http://www.sport360.com/article/going-out/19248/paint-town-blue-league-cup-final-city-fan-zone

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Yaya out to prove critics wrong as Man City host Barca

Alam Khan 18/02/2014
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Right decision: Toure wants to prove he was right to leave Barcelona.

Yaya Toure has become used to defying critics ever since he left Barcelona for Manchester City four years ago.

Some felt he chose money over medals by quitting the best club side in the world for one with ambition – after being bought by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan – but much still to achieve.

And, as imperious as he has been in City’s drive for an unprecedented four trophies this season, he was labelled a “liability” last month by former player Dietmar Hamann for neglecting defensive duties.

The acquisition of Fernandinho has given Toure more licence to roam forward but that still didn’t save him from criticism from the ex-Germany international.

As Toure now faces his former club in the last 16 of the Champions League, he admitted he is happy as long as he is carrying out his manager’s instructions.

He said: “Sometimes you have to give your answer to the people with your football.

“I think for me the most important thing is what my manager tells me to do and I think that’s the best way for the team and the best way for me as well.

“It doesn’t matter who wants to continue to criticise me and talk about me. I just want to focus on the next game because always when we have lost we are the worst team and I’m the worst player, and when we’ve won I’m the best in the team.

“The most important thing is we have to move on – liability or no liability – I’ve been playing for a long time.”

Following glory with Barca in 2009, Toure, 30, wants to join a select band of players who have won the trophy with different clubs.

“I hope if I’m lucky enough to get it this year, I would love to be part of that group,” he added. “I know it’s going to be difficult, but we believe, we will never, never stop. I would love to be part of this team to win it. I hope this year or maybe next year or the third year, but we will see.

“I’m very happy with the evolution of the team. Obviously the Champions League is our top objective. We’ve been a bit unlucky to be drawn against Barcelona, but we are learning a lot under our new coach and the team is going very well. No, I don’t have anything to prove [to Barcelona].

“I won a lot of trophies with them and I think from my point of view it was the right time to move on. I couldn’t have done anything more at Barcelona.

“As soon as I moved to City I was always talking about coming here to win something. A lot of people criticised me, thinking I had come here for something else, but since 2011 I’ve won a few trophies.

“We are still in all four competitions and want to go as far as possible. I hope at the end of the season we will have won a couple of trophies.”

And, like his team, Toure does not fear Barca and Lionel Messi, the player he feels is still the best in the world.

“We’re ready,” he added. “Barcelona are a very strong team physically, tactically, the way they use the ball with Messi, Xavi, [Andres] Iniesta, they can make a difference at any time.

“But it’s important we play the first game at home and we have players who can make a difference.”

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Former Al Ain target Magath appointed Fulham boss

David Cooper 15/02/2014
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Accomplished: Magath arrives at Craven Cottage with an impressive CV.

Former Bayern Munich manager – and one-time target for Al Ain – Felix Magath has been appointed new Fulham manager, taking over from Rene Muelensteen, who was also considered by the reigning UAE league champions.

Former Manchester United head coach Meulensteen had been in charge of the Cottagers for little more than two months after being promoted from within the club's backroom staff to replace fellow-Dutchman Martin Jol on December 1.

However, Wednesday's 3-2 home defeat by Liverpool left the Cottagers four points adrift of safety. And that was enough to persuade Fulham owner Shahid Khan, a Pakistan-born US-based businessman, to sack Meulensteen.

It was the second time this season Meulensteen had been dismissed after he was fired just 16 days into his time in charge of Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala in August.

Fulham's official statement on Magath made no mention of Meulensteen but their former manager, confirming his departure, accused the Cottagers of "freaking out" and "hitting the panic button on the emotions of fear".

German manager Magath led Bayern to successive Bundesliga titles in 2005 and 2006, before achieving the same feat with Wolfsburg, whom he left in 2012.

Last summer, Magath was in the running to replace Cosmin Olaroiu at Al Ain when the Romanian joined rivals Al Ahli. 

Indeed, a source close to Magath told Sport360 that he was "very keen" to take over The Boss, although the club eventually opted to appoint Uruguayan Jorge Fossati – who only lasted until the eve of the new season.

Al Ain was not Magath's first flirtation with UAE football. The 60-year-old was in talks with Al Jazira in November 2012 when then-manager Paulo Bonamigo was under increasing pressure. The Abu Dhabi giants decided to appoint former Spain under-23 boss Luis Milla, who endured an ill-fated eight months at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium.

"I am very happy to welcome Felix Magath to Fulham Football Club," Khan told Fulham's website. "Felix is an accomplished manager with multiple honours in the Bundesliga and a hunger to replicate his success with Fulham in the Barclays Premier League.

"I'm especially impressed with the reputation Felix has for coming into clubs at difficult times, often late in the season, and lifting them to their potential and beyond.

"Our club has shown promise in recent matches, but the fact is we have not won a league match since January 1. Given our form, we can no longer merely hope that our fortunes will finally turn.

"And with 12 matches remaining and at least four points separating us from safety, we certainly can no longer post empty results. Action was required."

Khan added that Magath, appointed on an 18-month contract, had been chosen on a recommendation from Fulham chief executive Alistair Mackintosh that received "my complete approval".

Only last weekend Meulensteen guided Fulham to a 2-2 draw away to champions Manchester United and they were within seconds of another creditable point against Liverpool, the Premier League's form team.

Similarly to Magath, Meulensteen had held talks with Al Ain following the departure of Fossati, only for the club to appoint former Al Ahli and Atletico Madrid boss Quique Sanches Flores.

A "disappointed" Meulensteen told BBC Radio Five: "You need to try and make things better as soon as you can, but you're playing with a deck of cards that are not yours.

"I haven't really been given any time to make that work. I thought the performance against Manchester United and Liverpool were very, very good and it was unfortunate that we did not pick up the points that we deserved.

"Twelve games to go, plenty of points to play for and I'm sure we would have turned it around.

"I've not been told anything. I knew the owners were freaking out and panicking about the fact that Fulham could get relegated, but they've had that sort of attitude already 10 games back.

"They've hit the panic button on emotions of fear, but hey-ho, that's what happens in football. It's not always fair." 

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